In a speech for the National Endowment for the Humanities earlier this month, the talented documentarian Ken Burns gave a powerful and compelling defense of the humanities. He mixes life lessons with insights into our current state of affairs gleaned from his immersion in the humanities. It’s really worth reading the entire speech.
Here’s and excerpt: “In a larger sense, the humanities helps us understand almost everything better–and they liberate us from the myopia our media culture and politics impose upon us. Unlike our current culture wars, which have manufactured a false dialectic just to accentuate otherness, the humanities stand in complicated contrast, permitting a nuanced and sophisticated view of our history, as well as our present moment, replacing misplaced fear with admirable tolerance, providing important perspective, and exalting in our often contradictory and confounding manifestations. Do we contradict ourselves? We do!”
Read the entire speech here: Ken Burns Jefferson Lecture | National Endowment for the Humanities
“David Silbersweig, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, says today’s multidisciplinary world needs liberal arts — and philosophy in particular — more than ever.” Silberweig is right. Unfortunately, just as we desperately need the skills and knowledge that comes from studying the humanities, politicians and business leaders are devaluing these fields. As a result, students view their humanities courses as an unnecessary obstacle in pursuit of their careers, and student disinterest then provides the justification for defunding these fields.
As a successful medical scientist who studied philosophy in college, Silbersweig is the perfect advocate for the liberal arts. He attributes his diverse educational background with his success. He notes, “I discovered that those without a liberal arts foundation, while often brilliant, generally had a narrower perspective. Their path to and through outstanding universities was more vocational.”
He argues that “[i]f we are to remain at the forefront of knowledge creation in this changing, globalizing world, then our students must be the next generation of explorers. We have a sacred obligation as educators, role models and mentors to ensure a system that promotes the attributes conducive to their success. A broad yet rigorous education will best equip them to go forth into uncharted territory to address issues of import to humanity in a creative fashion.”
“We need to foster and protect academic environments in which a broad, integrated, yet still deep education can flourish. They are our national treasure and a strategic asset, whether some politicians would recognize that, or not — and philosophy is foundational, whether my old dentist would appreciate it or not.”
Read the entire article here: A Harvard Medical School professor makes the case for the liberal arts and philosophy – The Washington Post
“Seventeen universities are to close liberal arts and social science courses.” The nationalist Japanese government has achieved what many conservatives in the U.S. would like to achieve.
This does not bode well for the future!
Source: | Times Higher Education